Food for our Minds and Spirits: The Dabbawalas of Mumbai

If you don’t know about the dabbawalas of Mumbai, you should. But if you look up this extraordinary group, chances are you’ll read something in a finance or business logistics kind of format, because the dabbawalas are a marvel when it comes to customer service. They’re a business––or maybe better put, a guild––that navigates many individuals, the city of Mumbai and time itself to deliver lunches to workers throughout the city. They’ve been doing it since the late 1800’s. They do it in massive quantities sometimes more than 200,000 tiffins are transported to people in all kinds of work all over the city. You can see why and how it works in the video above. It is, admittedly, a marvel of logistics and organization, and scholars have studied it in terms of what it can tell us about how informal human networks work to find efficiency and how language develops in these kinds of networks. (Including one written at Kent State!)

But, to me, there is another, maybe more interesting story to track with here is we don’t think about the complicated process of delivering. The interesting story is about what is in the box. The dabbawalas don’t own a restaurant or kitchen. They deliver, but they don’t work for a food producer. They go to homes and pick up lunches made at home by family, deliver them to workers in buildings across the city, and then bring the empty tiffins back to their homes. One account of what is happening sees this is a marvel of efficiency. But another account is to see a network of care, embodied by people who bring hot lunches made for husbands and wives and children. After all, what is love for family if not a hot meal during a long workday? The dabbawalas are that part of the interconnected web incarnate. And that truly is a marvel.

Sometimes it is hard to tap into our spiritual selves or find time to nurture our creativity and intellectual curiosity. Here is a section that reflects on some nourishing materials from around the web and related media channels in order to get us thinking, get us feeling, and get us reflecting on the lives we are living in this big world. **Some Adult/Mature Themes May Appear in Links and Other Attached Material**


Allan T. Georgia, MDiv, MTS, PhD